WWII Behind Closed Doors — Stal­in, The Nazis and The West

Lau­rence Rees
  • Review
By – August 25, 2011
This book is a fas­ci­nat­ing and engag­ing por­tray­al of the course of the Sec­ond World War on the key East­ern front where the Sovi­et Union bore the brunt of the titan­ic strug­gle to defeat Nazi Ger­many. Rees is a promi­nent writer and pro­duc­er of BBC/PBS his­tor­i­cal doc­u­men­taries on key facets of the Nazi era who makes bril­liant and effec­tive use of hun­dreds of inter­views with sur­viv­ing wit­ness­es of the ways in which Stal­in, Churchill, Roo­sevelt, and Tru­man com­pet­ed, coop­er­at­ed, and maneu­vered for advan­tage amid the strug­gle to defeat the Ger­man jug­ger­naut. Inter­est­ing­ly, as much atten­tion as the author pays to doc­u­ment­ing and describ­ing the hor­ren­dous loss­es of life inflict­ed and suf­fered dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, espe­cial­ly on the East­ern front, there are only a hand­ful of ref­er­ences to the anni­hi­la­tion of the Jews. The author clear­ly seeks to focus atten­tion on aspects of suf­fer­ing by so many, although in oth­er books and doc­u­men­taries Lau­rence Rees has devot­ed very sub­stan­tial atten­tion to the Jew­ish geno­cide. This high­ly read­able book should be com­bined with the doc­u­men­tary of the same title, to get the ben­e­fit of his­tor­i­cal words and images. End­notes, index, photographs.
Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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